‘No fundamental difference’: Palestinians pessimistic about Netanyahu’s exit

Leaders of five parties in new Israeli coalition have served in Netanyahu cabinets

Palestinians in the occupied territories and Israel are not optimistic about securing benefits if the "change coalition" takes power in Israel.

"There is no fundamental difference between this government and the previous government where the Palestinians are concerned," former Palestinian minister Ghassan Khatib told The Irish Times on the phone from the West Bank.

“Getting rid of [Binyamin] Netanyahu is a positive development because he was getting ready to form a government of religious extremists and settlers” who would continue expanding settlements and the de facto annexation of the West Bank, said Dr Khatib, adding that his removal “is good news for everybody”.

He blamed Mr Netanyahu for "systematically weakening the Palestinian Authority" and the recent Hamas-Israeli violence for marginalising it.

Dr Khatib thinks if the coalition of disparate parties that reached a deal this week to form a new government is confirmed by the Knesset, it “will not last long because it is fragile and consists of rightists, liberals and semi-leftists [but] Netanyahu is expected to mount a strong opposition.”

The US shift from the actively pro-Netanyahu Trump administration to the more measured Biden administration “is partially responsible for the change in Israel as Israeli public opinion resonates with developments in the US”, Dr Khatib said.

Former Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi tweeted: "After two years of political deadlock and four elections, it looks like it might be the end of the Netanyahu era. The problem? The person replacing him is further to the right."

Leaders of five of the eight parties in the new coalition, including prime minister designate Naftali Bennett, have served in Mr Netanyahu’s previous cabinets.

In a second tweet, Dr Ashrawi wrote: “The end of the Netanyahu era still contains within it built-in systems of racism, extremism, violence, expansionism, annexation & lawlessness. His former cohorts will maintain his legacy. It’s up to the diminished progressive forces to challenge & change this legacy.”

‘New approach’

Speaking to a gathering in Washington, ex-PLO legal adviser Diana Buttu agreed. Despite the determination of Mr Netanyahu's opponents to get rid of him, she said, "There is long-standing agreement [on all sides] on one thing – which is how much to crush Palestinians."

Buttu argued that in Israel "the centrist parties are extremely right-wing." The Israeli political spectrum has drifted rightwards since the Likud took power in 1977.

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said that "Palestinians have seen dozens of Israeli governments throughout history, right, left, centre, as they call it. But all of them have been hostile when it comes to the rights of our Palestinian people."

Rami Younis, a Hebrew University-educated Palestinian citizen of Israel and an activist, writing on the +972 website, criticised the decision of Mansour Abbas of the fundamentalist United Arab List, or Ra'am, to join the coalition.

Mr Younis said Mr Abbas claims to offer a “new approach” to Palestinian politics in Israel and has promised constituents investment and crime-fighting in their communities, an end to demolitions of homes without permits, and recognition of unrecognised Bedouin villages, which are routinely bulldozed by the Israeli authorities.

Mr Younis, who is a resident of the mixed town of Lyd (or Lod), accused Mr Abbas of ignoring “Israel’s siege on Gaza, attacks on East Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque”, imposition of radical settlers on binational cities in Israel, and enactment of discriminatory laws against Israeli Palestinians.